As the perennial problem of drink-driving rears its ugly head all over Europe again this Christmas time, Swedish premium car maker Saab has been awarded a coveted prize for its contribution to tackling the issue. The Swedish Automobile Association's "Årets Hjulklapp" award (meaning "this year's Christmas present") has been given to Saab in recognition of its AlcoKey device, which is now being trialled on a widespread basis in Sweden.
Smaller than a mobile phone, the slim Saab AlcoKey module incorporates a flip-top cover with a mouth piece where the driver provides a breath sample before starting the car. A radio transmitter then sends a signal to the car's electronic control unit. This will either allow the car to be started, or keep it immobilised if the breath sample is found to contain alcohol above the permitted legal level.
Such alco-lock devices have been recognised around the world for their effectiveness in lowering re-offending drink driving rates. The UK Government's Department for Transport (DfT) is currently running a pilot alco-lock programme for repeat drink drivers, whilst alco-locks are already enforced in many US states and Canadian provinces.
In the UK, after more than two decades of success in lowering drink-driving rates, the number of road deaths involving excessive consumption of alcohol began to rise again in the first half of this decade. Despite the fact that Saab's home market of Sweden is at the forefront of Europe when it comes to traffic safety, drink driving is also still a serious problem there. In 2005, drink driving accounted for approximately 35 per cent of all road fatalities in Sweden.
During a lengthy development programme with the Swedish Government, Saab Automobile AB has worked on solutions to the problems surrounding alcohol consumption and car driving. Saab AlcoKey is a product that, thanks to its user-friendly operation, has the potential to become the first such device in mass production for everyday use.
Announcing the award, a spokesperson for the Swedish Automobile Association commented: "One of the most efficient measures to reduce the number of traffic accidents is the incorporation of alco-lock devices as standard in newly-produced cars. To achieve reasonable cost levels, create optimum user friendliness and provide technical quality, the car industry must push forward the development process of this safety installation. Saab's development of - and ongoing field trials with - Saab AlcoKey, will have strategic importance for safer traffic conditions and will, at the same time, contribute to a beneficial development of competition in the car market as a whole."
This is the seventh year that the Swedish Automobile Association has given its annual award, which is designed to encourage individuals, organisations or companies that are innovative and outstanding within the fields of traffic safety, car safety and the environment.Published 28 December 2006